Kayaking is one of the most popular outdoor adventures in the Lake District, so it’s fortunate that there are plenty of places where you can get out onto the water. This incredibly peaceful activity is one of our absolute favourite ways to get out on the water. Feel the breeze on your face, glide serenely across the water, and admire the scenery from an incredible vantage point.
The sport is also a great activity for families and groups, because it’s easy to pick up the basics and get going. You can launch your own kayak if you have one, hire from various locations across the Lake District, or take a guided tour with us. We’ll provide all the kit you need and make sure you see the best places, while staying completely safe at all times.
In the meantime, browse through these stunning locations for our pick of the best places to kayak in the Lake District.
It’s the home of Keswick Adventures, so it’s no surprise that Derwentwater is our favourite lake for kayaking! We’re not unduly biased though: Derwentwater really is a stunning location. There are small islands to explore (though you can’t land on all of them), incredible views of the impressive ‘jaws of Borrowdale’, and easy access from multiple locations.
There is a reasonably small number of motorised boats (the Keswick Launch) on the lake, so do keep an eye out during the hours that they are running. Otherwise, the majority of the traffic you’ll see will be other kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, sailboats and swimmers. All-in-all a very dignified group!
We recommend paddling around Derwent Isle for a glimpse of the grand house on it (though please note you can’t land here), or stop off at St Herbert’s Island for a picnic and a break from paddling.
Windermere is England’s longest lake and very popular for water sports. It’s also one of the most heavily trafficked lakes, so do be aware that you will be sharing the water with other hand- and motor-powered boats including a car ferry and cruisers.
Despite that, Windermere is a joy to kayak on. The Lake District National Park website has produced a handy guide with some suggested routes to try, including an easy loop around Belle Isle. This is the largest island on the lake and, though private, includes an interesting round building that you can see from the water.
If you’re paddling in the Ambleside area at the north of the lake, consider stopping off at the Wateredge Inn. You can hop right off your boat and into the pub garden!
Coniston Water is just the right size to explore in a single day for experienced kayakers. For those who are less experienced or less ambitious, there’s plenty for you too, with options to mess around on the water from the village or one of the pebble beaches. The pretty lake is bordered by the vast woodland of Grizedale Forest, and the imposing mountain known as the Old Man of Coniston on the other.
Look out for the beautiful heritage Steam Yacht Gondolas that dreamily glide across the lake. If you loved Swallows & Amazons when you were younger, you may recognise the description of these boats as Captain Flint’s houseboat. Fans of the books and films might fancy a trip to Peel Island, which is the inspiration for the fabulous Wild Cat Island.
The Solway Coast
Fancy a bit of sea kayaking instead? The coast along the western edge of Cumbria varies between sandy beaches, Victorian promenades and sandstone cliffs. It’s a haven for birdlife and you may also spot the occasional seal or porpoise.
Kayaking on the sea is very different to kayaking on a lake, so you should be aware of the additional risks such as rip tides, and be fully competent to deal with them. For those who are, a paddle up or down the coast is incredible. You can launch just about anywhere, and a number of villages dotted along the way provide convenient locations for refreshments and public transport. Maryport to the south is the biggest town and the best connected.
There is no kayak hire along the Solway Coast, but we can offer guided trips if you don’t have your own. Just get in touch to find out more.
Though kayaking is restricted on Buttermere, it is still possible to do so with the correct permit from the National Trust. This is to make sure that the tranquillity and character of Buttermere is retained without too much boat traffic.
Day permits are available from the National Trust car parks at Buttermere and Lanthwaite Wood. Or call 017687 74649 for a seasonal permit.
Once you’ve got your permit and are on the water, Buttemere is truly gorgeous. Though a reasonably small lake, the surrounding mountain scenery is spectacular, with some impressive crags rising high above you. Look out for Haystacks, with the rocky lumps at its peak resembling piles of hay; or the iconic shape of Fleetwith Pike, home to Honister Slate Mine.
Travelling a little out of the way, and further west than many usually go, you’ll find Wastwater. This is England’s deepest lake so can be cold, and its exposed position can lead to some challenging paddling. But get out there on the right kind of day and you’ll be blown away by its peacefulness. The iconic Wastwater Screes rise out of the water to create an imposing backdrop. Towards the bottom end of the lake you’ll spot the famous mountains of the Scafell Range (including England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike).
Wastwater and the surrounding valley of Wasdale is a place of extremes, and it won’t be for everyone. But we love kayaking in this remote location with its stunning scenery.
One of the Lake District’s most attractive bodies of water, Ullswater is a long ribbon lake that offers plenty of brilliant opportunities for kayaking.
Because of it’s shape, it’s impossible to see both ends of the lake at the same time so, if you’re an experienced paddler, you could enjoy the challenge of kayaking the entire lake (just under 12km one-way). Or the reasonably narrow width makes it a fairly easy paddle from side to side.
There are numerous locations you can launch, particularly on the northern side, with good parking at Pooley Bridge, Glenridding and Aira Force. See if you can spot the trail of hikers heading up to infamous Striding Edge on Helvellyn, or the route of the old Roman road on top of bulky High Street.
The heritage Ullswater ‘steamers’ sail daily - they’re gorgeous to see, just make sure you keep out of their way!
Guided kayaking in the Lake District
If you’ve been inspired to get out the paddles and launch onto the water, than we’re here to get you started. Our experienced guides can take you out on Derwentwater and other locations, and show you the best of the best.